“My” Unpredictable Jurors, Pt 1

I enjoy working with jurors. They are upstanding citizens doing their civic duty, sometimes at great personal sacrifice.  However, like everything else in the criminal justice system, jurors can be unpredictable. Murphy’s Law overrides the entire criminal justice system.

They Can/Can’t Get By Without Me at Work

I had one woman prospective juror who tried to use her job to get out of sitting on a case. I asked her point blank, “Can’t they get by without you at work.”  She candidly replied, “Yes they can, but I never want them to figure that out.” I rewarded her honesty by excusing her.

“Forepersons”

In an effort to make court language gender neutral, we no longer ask jurors to select a “foreman.” Instead, we ask them to select someone to act as “foreperson.” I had a case where the jurors misunderstood, and instead of picking a single foreperson, they picked four persons.

What does Unanimous Mean?

I had a jury that sent me the following question during their deliberations: “How many guilty votes does it require for our verdict to be unanimous?” Obviously, both jurors were deadlocked, and I had to declare mistrials. Not only couldn’t they agree on a verdict, but they couldn’t agree on what “unanimous” means.

Years later a second deliberating jury sent me the same question, asking how many guilty votes does it require to be unanimous. I think they had overheard me talking about the first jury, and decided to play a joke on me. I fell for it.

The Overly Conscientious Juror

Many jurors do everything they can to get out of jury duty. I nip that attitude in the bud by giving a patriotic speech focusing on the sacrifices of those who died for our freedom. After my speech, whenever I ask if sitting as a juror will be a hardship, no one raises their hand.

I did have one juror who was too conscientious. We were in the morning of the third day of trial. One of our jurors was on the phone to my clerk.  The juror was in the emergency room of the local hospital. She was having a severe gall bladder attack, and they were preparing her for emergency surgery. She wanted me to talk directly to the surgeon and order him to postpone the surgery so she could return to court.

I got on the phone to the juror. I sincerely thanked her for her willingness to serve.  I praised her patriotism. But I reminded her that I had alternate jurors so we could continue the case without her. I wished her well with her surgery, and I told her that my clerk would call the hospital and let her know as soon as we had a verdict. What a champion!

The Drunk Juror

I had a prospective juror who apparently felt that jury service would be less stressful if he came to court drunk. As he drove into the courthouse parking lot, he cut the corner, jumped the curb and knocked down one of our large signs. When our bailiffs arrived, the man was holding onto the car door for balance, and our sign was resting against his hood. The sign said: “BUCKLE UP.  DRIVE SAFE.” One of our sergeants had the foresight to take a photo of the juror leaning against his car for support next to the sign. 

(Other Articles. http://www.londonedition.net)

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